Articles Posted in pregnancy discrimination

A woman in Tennessee is fighting for workplace pregnancy accommodations for workers who may need temporary modifications, transfers or reassignments based on medical restrictions. pregnant

Plaintiff had been working for a local grocer for two years when, in the fifth month of her first pregnancy, she started to suffer sharp pains in her abdomen. As it turned out, the baby had dropped into her cervix. She was at risk of preterm labor, which could have serious and devastating consequences for her unborn child. Her doctor gave her a note to give to her employer, with instructions that she avoid heavy lifting. For two weeks, her employer acquiesced, allowing her to avoid carrying boxes of chicken or other supplies in the deli area. But then suddenly, after a follow-up doctor’s visit, her manager informed her that allowing such lifting restrictions was against the store policy. The 24-year-old was sent home, reeling, fearful for how she would pay her bills with a baby on the way.

She has now filed a class action pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, seeking a change in the store’s policy, which she says violates the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Both state and federal laws do protect pregnant workers, though sometimes the interpretation gets muddled. The Tennessee Human Rights Act & Disabilities Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of familial status, but in the scope of employment, most pregnancy discrimination claims are filed under gender discrimination provisions. At the federal level, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and prohibits sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. This amendment prohibits discrimination on the basis of one’s sex – which can include pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions. Women who are affected by pregnancy, birth and related medical conditions are to be treated the same for all employment-related purposes – including those who may not be so affected but similar in their inability to work.  Continue reading

A former worker at a Mexican food restaurant chain has been awarded $550,000 – which includes punitive damages – after a federal jury in Washington D.C. found she was in fact discriminated for her pregnancy. pregnantwoman

Although the national chain, Chipotle, and its franchise owner had denied that it had fired the woman for her pregnancy, the jury opined this was in fact the reason for her termination from the job.

The case dates back four years. It was at that time in 2011 when plaintiff became pregnant while working at the fast-food restaurant. It was not long after she informed the manager of her pregnancy that he started acting out. He restricted her access to water. He also began giving her a hard time about bathroom breaks and informed her she needed to limit them. He even went so far as to say that anytime she needed to go to the bathroom, she had to announce it to every employee in the store, and further that he had to approve them so that her post could be covered. Continue reading

One of the largest insurance brokerage firms in the world is facing down allegations of pregnancy discrimination.pregnancy5

According to The Orlando Sentinel, this was a situation in which a pregnant applicant was offered an entry-level post, which was almost immediately rescinded once the company learned she was with child. Although the company thanked her for “telling us beforehand,” it was explained in an email that that the firm had “a very urgent need to have somebody in this position long-term.”

The woman had informed the company of her pregnancy by asking about maternity benefits almost immediately after she was hired. Less than a half hour later, she received an email rescinding the offer.  Continue reading

In Pico Rivera, a working-class, Latino suburb of Los Angeles, Wal-Mart is the second-largest employer for the region. More than 500 families rely on the big box chain for their income and the company accounts for 10 percent of the city’s tax revenue. There are also a number of workers fighting for better working conditions, including a living wage, regular hours and the absence of pregnancy discrimination. pregnancy4

Here, as a recent UPI article explained, some have paid a hefty price for their activism, including being fired or laid off. They are relying on donations for food and clothing. Still, a number showed up at the shareholder’s meeting this year, petition in hand requesting reinstatement from executives.

Although some are dismissive of Wal-Mart and its practices, we should consider that it is in fact the biggest company and the largest private employer in the world. In the U.S., it employs 1.4 million people and it operates in 27 other countries on five continents. The only other employers that are bigger than Wal-Mart: The U.S. Department of Defense and the Chinese Army. Continue reading

In California, employers must provide up to four months of disability leave for workers who are disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth or some related medical condition. This time doesn’t have to be taken all at once, nor does it apply solely to full-time workers.pregnancy2

A woman need not be totally incapacitated or bedridden to be deemed disabled by pregnancy, but she must be unable to perform one or more essential job functions without undue risk to her or the child. Any periodic absences prior to childbirth can be subtracted from that four-month time frame.

The law also bars harassment on the basis of pregnancy and requires companies to provide reasonable accommodates for pregnant workers as necessary. Some of these protections went into effect in California as late as 2012. Many other states lack this kind of broad worker protection, but many employees continue to fight for their rights for working women in the course of their pregnancy.

In the recent case of Wages v. Stuart Mgt., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit weighed one such pregnancy discrimination case. Plaintiff alleged employer violated her rights under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Continue reading

In weighing a case of alleged pregnancy discrimination, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important ruling in favor of pregnant workers. In a 6-3 ruling, the court ruled the former United Parcel Service Worker should get another chance to show her employer was wrong to force her on unpaid leave, rather than give her a lighter duty assignment as her doctor recommended. pregnancy2

That decision reversed earlier findings by lower courts which determined UPS wasn’t in violation of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act because light-duty work was expressly offered to only other types of workers: Those who lost their commercial vehicle driver’s license, those with a condition covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act and those who suffered a job-related injury.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, passed in 1978, clarified that gender discrimination included discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and/or other related medical conditions. The law also instructs companies to treat pregnant workers the same as others who are similar in their ability or inability to work.

The Chicago Public School System recently came under fire after it was alleged a number of teachers were fired on the basis of their pregnancies. A federal discrimination lawsuit has been filed. SONY DSC

The district staunchly denies this assertion, insisting the teachers were let go as a result of performance ratings, and that lay-off determinations were consistent with the necessity of business. The district further asserts the lawsuit has no merit because there is no pattern of discrimination when all employment decisions stemmed from non-discriminatory, legitimate reasons.

However, the U.S. government asserts otherwise, noting that in the course of three years, the district took adverse employment action against eight teachers who were either pregnant or who had just returned to work after pregnancy. The disparate treatment those individuals suffered included poor performance evaluations, where previously their records had been stellar.

The American Civil Liberties Union has succeeded in taking on a gender discrimination case against a Catholic school in Indiana. According to court documents, a teacher was discriminated against after she sought in vitro fertilization treatment to get pregnant.

After working at the school for more than seven years as a language arts and literature teacher, the Catholic school informed her that her contract would not be renewed because the act made her a “grave and moral sinner” through the eyes of the religious employer. This is one of many cases that pit civil liberties against religious rights.

babyhandsThe ACLU has worked aggressively to put an end to discrimination in the name of religious beliefs. In this case, a federal lawsuit was filed against the school and the local Catholic authorities for sex discrimination in the workplace. The legal team highlighted the reality that no man had ever been fired for his involvement with fertility treatments. In defense, attorneys on behalf of the school argued that the organization should be exempted from federal anti-discrimination laws because the decision was based on “sincerely-held religious beliefs.”

Whether you were an employee and planned to get pregnant, have an unexpected pregnancy, or you are pregnant and looking for a job, it is important to know your rights. Despite state and federal laws that protect women against discrimination and other forms of adverse employment action, many women still suffer pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. So what are your rights? When should you take legal action against an employer? How can you protect your reputation and career in the face of discrimination? Here’s the short list of “what to expect when you’re expecting” in the workplace:

hands3Freedom against discriminatory hiring practices: If you are pregnant and seeking employment, remember it is illegal for employers to ask about your pregnancy status or to deny you employment because of a pregnancy. While the facts of every case must be examined, you should consult with an experienced advocate if you suspect that you were denied employment because of a pregnancy.

Reasonable accommodations: Under the EEOC guidelines, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women. This may mean a change of actual duties, or for example, to provide a chair if you are otherwise required to stand for long hours. If your previous duties required heavy lifting, employers should do their best to find other suitable job duties.

Every year, California businesses need to learn and adjust to new employment and labor laws and regulations. As the end of 2014 draws near, corporations and small-businesses alike will be shifting gears to implement new policies in accordance with California laws slated to go into effect in 2015. In addition to employers learning their new obligations, employees should consider their rights and take legal action in the event of a violation. Not surprisingly, the regulations cover a variety of issues including wage and hour law, discrimination, and leave of absences. The following is a brief summary of many of the laws that will take effect in 2015:

family-time-983340-mExpanded Coverage for Emergency Duty: Under current California law, employees are protected from discharge or discipline when they take time off to perform emergency volunteer service. The new law expands its definition from “emergency rescue personnel,” to include all individuals who perform services for government agencies.

Expanded Definition of Protected Individuals: Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), new law will cover employees as well as unpaid interns and volunteers, employees receiving public assistance, and driver’s licensed persons who are otherwise undocumented.